FINAL Migration Update: May 11, 2011
Please Report
Your Sightings!

The best season in four years continues as the peak migration of mom/calf pairs thrills whale watchers. Posts #6 and #7 have both counted 100 calves so far! How far north can the whales go? Dig into the data and our journal page to sum up a season to celebrate. Thanks for joining us!

This Week's Report Includes:

Image of the Week
This gentle mom/calf pair hardly disturbed the water.

Photo: Michael H. Smith

What is remarkable?

Whale Watching: News from Observation Posts

Click on the globe to see the migration route. Then click red dots for latest news from our Posts.

This week: See field notes from research stations #6, #7, #8,

Image: Michael H. Smith
It's peak time for seeing the migration of cow/ calf pairs.

A few more days of counting remain, but it's a whale of a season at last. We cheer and thank you, our citizen scientists, and also our research scientists, who celebrate this:

Alisa Schulman-Janiger at ACS/LA (Post #6): "We just reached 100 northbound gray whale calves on May 10! These are our highest northbound calf numbers to date since 2006 (when we had 105 calves): we now have more cow/calf pairs than 18 of the last 27 seasons!"

Michael Smith, Santa Barbara Channel (Post #7): "The run of calves has truly excited us all. On May 6, with more than two weeks to go, we had counted more northbound Gray whales than any other entire Count. On May 4th, in eight hours and one minute, 24 Gray whales passed by Counter Point, establishing a new record for us: a dozen calves in a day. On May 9 we saw northbound cow/calf pairs numbers 98, 99, and 100 for this year's Count…This whole year has been a thrill."

Wayne Perryman, Pt. Piedras Blancas Lighthouse Station (Post #8): "On May 10 we had 11 calves, for a season total of 187. At the mid-point of the survey, our cumulative count to date already exceeded the total counts for three of the past 4 years. It looks like a good year: not great, but certainly better than the last four. We may extend the counts through the first of June if whales keep coming by."

Highlights: What a Week!
The cow/calf migration is in full swing, and many adults and juveniles are in the final stretch of the journey north.We wish all the whales, counted or not, safe passage. Observers share what they're seeing now:

What is a problem for whales on windy days?
Click the photo to see.

What was special about this cow/calf pair spotted at Post #7? Click the photo to see.

What does Dr. Kate Wynne see when she does Arctic surveys from an airplane?

Wonder: How Far Can They Go?

By now, a few whales may have already gone through the Bering Strait. Soon, if not already, some gray whales will migrate as far north at Point Barrow, Alaska. A few brave souls will make it all the way to the Beaufort Sea, perhaps as far east as Canada. Others will cross the Chukchi Sea going to the northwest into the Siberian Sea.

Dr. David Rugh of the Marine Mammal Laboratory tells us why they seem to be dispersing (spreading out) more through the years: "Some of this may be a result of a larger population; some may be a function of decrease feeding resources farther south in the Bering Sea; and some of the dispersal may be because there isn't as much sea ice to hold the whales back from exploring arctic waters." Where will you find these places on a map? What might thinner arctic ice mean for gray whales?

This week, how far can the whales go before ice stops them? What makes the whales spread out more and more as they reach the Arctic? Where do the Pacific Gray Whales end up? (Keep track of sea ice changes.)
Summarize the Season: Using Daily Data

This Season's Story:
The data tell a story. This season you have identified patterns, made predictions, formulated hypotheses, asked questions, and made comparisons. Now it's time to size up the season and share discoveries!

Journal Page: Print a page for Post #6 and one for Post #7. Compare and share what you discover. Please join us again next spring for a new chapter in the exciting story of the longest mammal migration!

NOTE: We'll keep posting data until the point-count sites complete their season's work.

Tracking the Migration Using Daily Data

Tracking the Migration Using Daily Data

View, record, graph, and analyze the latest data from California Posts #6 and #7.

Annual Evaluation: Please Share Your Thoughts

Will you take a few minutes to complete our Year-end Evaluation? With your help, we can document Journey North's reach, impact and value. We need comments like yours to keep the program going and growing.

More Gray Whale Lessons and Teaching Ideas!

This is the FINAL Gray Whale Migration Update for 2011. The whales are off to a summer of feeding and fattening before the monumental migration starts all over again. Thank you for cheering them on their journey north. Best wishes to YOU for a fun-filled summer!